The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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42 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW In Ann Arbor, a different sort of change was taking place. A group of Michigan football upperclassmen — including senior quarterback Bob Timberlake, captain and defensive lineman Jim Conley and several others — bucked protocol and decided to spend their summer in Ann Arbor working out, with one goal in mind: to end the Wol- verines' longest ever Big Ten football title drought. They hadn't captured one since 1950, and the leaders on head coach Bump Elliott's sixth team were determined to go out on top. The young Wolverines hit the sleds and put in extra hours — completely voluntary, Timberlake noted recently, wary of NCAA regulations even decades later — and set out to accomplish something special following two losing seasons. "It's pretty typical if you have bad teams that a lot of younger people get to play, and even with our team there were more sopho- mores on our team than there were any other class," Conley recalled of the 1962 team that finished 2-7. "It was 13 seniors, 15 juniors and about 19 sophomores. Freshman were ineligible at that time, and we really beat each other up more than the teams did today. "We had great leadership in the senior class, including a couple of fifth-year guys. It meant a lot to them. They were on a mission. They were tired of losing. When we came back our junior year, [offensive lineman and captain] Joe O'Donnell was a great leader. In our se- nior year, we brought in an assistant coach by the name of Tony Mason, and he put a lot of spark in our team with his absolute enthu- siasm. He had all these different sayings. He was electric." Elliott, though, was the man in charge and was held in an almost fatherly esteem, having earned his players' respect. While he knew he had something special, he wasn't the type to predict a championship. He downplayed expectations, knowing there was still plenty to prove, even with a veteran-laden roster with young talent added and depth at every position. A 24-7 season-opening win over Air Force moved the Wolverines into the nation's top 10, but others wanted to see how Timberlake and Co. fared against All-American signal-caller Roger Staubach and Navy before including them among college football's elite. By late afternoon Sept. 26, 1964, the rest of the nation had an inkling — the Wolverines were for real. The Start Navy, behind 1963 Heisman Trophy winner Staubach, came to Ann Arbor ranked No. 5 in the country. The Midshipmen hadn't been shut out in 20 straight games, but that was about to change. Michigan's offense was slow to pick up, scoring only six points at the half before di- minutive but electric tailback Carl Ward broke loose to finish with 74 yards two touchdowns on 18 carries. The defense, though, owned the day, picking Staubach off twice in a 21-0 shutout. Staubach left the game with a limp after a big hit from Wolverines end Bill Yearby, not the first time Michigan's future All-American would literally leave his mark on an opposing offense. "The Wolverines brought Roger Staubach, the heroic Middie quarterback, back into focus as an ordinary mortal," The New York Times wrote — and in the same game, Yearby stated his case that he just might not be. A TEAM FOR THE AGES Fullback Mel Anthony ripped of an 84-yard touchdown run on his way to a 123-yard day that helped propel U-M to a 34-7 victory over No. 8 Oregon State in the Rose Bowl. PHOTO COURTESY BENTLEY HISTORICAL LIBRARY BY CHRIS BALAS ifty years ago, the United States of America was in a period of transition. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, though violence continued to rage in many American cities, and U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War was beginning to escalate. 42-47.1964 50th Anniversary.indd 42 6/19/14 4:37 PM

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